Dust of the Damned (9781101554005)

BOOK: Dust of the Damned (9781101554005)
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PRAISE FOR
Dust of the Damned


Dust of the Damned
is a damnably fun ride through a West that never was, in the company of fine folks who should have been. When the West gets weird, Peter Brandvold is the best trail guide a reader could ask for.”

—Jeff Mariotte, author of
Desperadoes

“Supernatural,. 45‑caliber Western mayhem at its best! Brandvold delivers a no‑nonsense, blood-and-guts foray into the unknown.”

—Shannon Eric Denton,
    Harvey Award–nominated coauthor of
Graveslinger

“A rip-roaring, weird Western adventure, told with Peter Brandvold’s excellent eye for detail and bristling with action. If you start reading it at night, you’ll probably be too scared—and too caught up in the story—to sleep. Brandvold is one of today’s top Western writers, and he’s better than ever in
Dust of the Damned
.”

—James Reasoner,
Spur Award–nominated author of
Redemption, Kansas


Dust of the Damned
is a breath—or should I say ‘dragon’s breath’?—of fresh air. Part Western, part fantasy, part adventure, and all action, it shoots off like a comet and never lets up. Its conclusion leaves you wanting more. Well told and action-packed,
Dust of the Damned
is an invigorating read and another winner for Peter Brandvold.”

—Tom Roberts, publisher, Black Dog Books

“A full chamber of horrors and .45 slugs for things that go bump in the night.”

—Beau Smith,
author of
Wynonna Earp: The Yeti Wars
and 200 People to Kill

Dust
of the
Damned

PETER BRANDVOLD

THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada
(a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
Penguin Group Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.)
Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia
(a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.)
Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi—110 017, India
Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, Auckland 0632, New Zealand
(a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)
Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

This is an original publication of The Berkley Publishing Group.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

Copyright © 2012 by Peter Brandvold.
Cover photo © David Tipling, Getty Images.
Cover design by Richard Hasselberger.
Text design by Laura K. Corless.

All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
BERKLEY ® is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
The “B” design is a trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

PRINTING HISTORY
Berkley trade paperback edition / January 2012

Library of Congress Cataloging‑in‑Publication Data

Brandvold, Peter.
  Dust of the damned / Peter Brandvold.
      p. cm.
  ISBN 978-0-425-24517-0 (pbk.)
1. Werewolves—Fiction. 2. Supernatural—Fiction. I. Title.
  PS3552.R3236D87 2012
 813.54—dc23

2011038301

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

10  9  8  7  6  5  4  3  2  1

With a tip of the hat
to the cross-genre pulpsters of old
who published their yarns in the pages of the great
Weird Tales.
And in memory of cover artist
Margaret Brundage,
1900–1976.

Dust
of the
Damned

Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 1
    

DEVIL’S LAIR

“Sun’ll be down in an hour, Uriah.” The old prospector’s voice had a tremor in it.

The big man riding the rangy palomino stallion he called General Lee slanted a hazel eye at the sky vaulting over the towering canyon walls. “An hour and a half, I ’spect.”

“That ain’t enough time,” said the prospector, Junius Webb, riding a mouse-brown burro along a narrow trail meandering through a deep, high-mountain, stream-threaded canyon in the Sawatch Range of central Colorado Territory.

The big man, ex‑Confederate ghoul hunter Uriah Zane, glanced at him skeptically. “You said the cave was just over the next rise.”

“We still don’t got enough time. It’s too damn late in the day, Uriah.”

“Stop whizzin’ down your leg, Junius,” Zane said, his voice
low and gravelly and pitched with the soft, rolling vowels of his North Carolina origins. “This ain’t my first spin on the ole merry‑go‑round.”

“You ever spin on it so late in the day?”

“Later,” Zane said as they topped the rise. “Keeps the fear up, and that’s a good thing in this business.” He drew back on General’s reins.

Zane was a tall, dark, powerfully built man with thick arms and shoulders. A little past thirty but with a hard wiliness that made him appear older than his years, he wore smoke-stained buckskin pants and a tunic, a long, charcoal-colored wolf vest, and knee-high wolf-fur moccasins. He had a handsome but rough, square face that from a distance appeared hand-hewn from knotted oak. Closer up the lines and planes looked finer, less severe, but the eyes, not without tenderness, gave the impression of great age.

His cheeks and jaws were carpeted in a thick, black beard. His long, hazel eyes, slightly slanted and owning a wry intelligence, turned color throughout the day—green, gold, yellow, brown, sometimes the blue of a high mountain lake. His hair was long and nearly black as an Indian’s though he himself was of Scotch-Irish and French Huguenot descent. He’d been born and raised in the red-dirt heartland of North Carolina. He’d been born into the Southern gentry, his people having arrived on the New World’s shores in the 1750s, then traveling to the savage, Indian-teeming North Carolina wilderness via the Pioneer Road. His family had grown wealthy raising bright-leaf tobacco, a skill handed down from father to son.

Even as a young man, Uriah Zane had betrayed his singular, solitary nature. He had preferred stalking the surrounding
mountains, hunting bears and panthers and fishing remote streams alone for sometimes days or weeks at a time. He found such activities far more fulfilling and exhilarating than bedding down in the tobacco barn to gauge the furnace temperature during the long, painstaking process of preparing the rich golden leaves for market.

Neither had he cared for the debutantes’ coming-out balls and large gatherings so characteristic of his moneyed, socially conscious class. Early on, he’d earned a reputation for taciturnity and reclusiveness but also one as a formidable backwoodsman, acquiring hunting and survival skills equal to those of the Amerindians he often found himself fighting and killing, though he felt nothing but respect for the natives, knowing he and his kind were the interlopers on their territory.

A necklace of wolf claws dangled from a rawhide thong down the hunter’s broad chest, which was clad in buckskin that a Ute woman he’d holed up with one winter had beaded in sun, moon, and star designs across both breasts.

Horn-handled bowie knives jutted from sheaths strapped inside the tops of his moccasins, and on his shell belt he wore two Colt Navy pistols, while a stout, savage-looking LeMat pepperbox revolver jutted from a shoulder holster under his vest. He wore two cartridge belts, one appointed with lead slugs, the other with silver. Down his back hung a quiver and a heavy wooden crossbow that Zane had fashioned himself not long after the War, when he’d headed west to hunt ghouls for his personal satisfaction as well as for a living.

Ghouls ran amok on the western frontier, and a man who could bring in a few werewolves or blood-swillers or the infernal living devils known as hobgobbies and collect on the bounty the
U.S. government was offering could make a fair living for himself. If he lived, that was. Or wasn’t transformed into the very beast he hunted, which was always a risk.

Zane knew that risk better than anyone.

The same curse had befallen a few friends of Uriah Zane, and Zane himself had undertaken the unenviable task of running them down. He’d thought that was only right. In their places, he’d have hated being taken down by a lucky shot from a thirty‑a‑month-and-found local badge toter, say, or, worse, allowed to live forever in a form he’d once shunned. Cursed for all eternity.

All in all, a man like Zane, broken by the civil strife and the ghastly tools that Lincoln had used to win the War at Gettysburg, could do worse for himself.

He had no home, no family. The plantation at Rose Hill had long since been taken over by carpetbaggers, and those of his family who hadn’t fallen under tooth and claw at Gettysburg were battered and broken husks of their proud former selves, defeated not only by the deaths of so many of their own but by the way those soldiers had died…or been cursed to live forever like those who’d cursed them.

Now Zane stared out from beneath the brim of his black, bullet-crowned sombrero banded with woven eagle feathers. His eyes, set deep in leathery sockets, narrowed slightly at the corners as he surveyed the canyon before him with the keenness of a raptor’s gaze.

He sniffed the breeze, wolflike, listened closely to every weed rustle and branch squawk, to every tumbling pinecone. It was hard even for his keen ears, however, to hear much above the river rollicking down its rocky bed to his left, chugging, churning, and spitting white foam over its pine-clad banks.

BOOK: Dust of the Damned (9781101554005)
11.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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